Regarding Governor Cuomo’s Apology…

Schodengers douchbag

[I’ve been looking for a chance to use this expression for a while. It derives from the quantum mechanics paradox called Schrödinger’s Cat in which a hypothetical cat in a closed box may be considered simultaneously both alive and dead as a result of being linked to a contingent subatomic event that may or may not occur. I’ve really never understood the cat, but Schrödinger’s Douchebag I get.]

He was cornered, so the Governor of New York, already being buffeted by one serious scandal, decided to try to talk his way out of another one. Two staffers have gone on the record to accuse him of sexual harassment, and one of them related two instance of sexual assault (a kiss and a stroke on the legs). The Gov’s initial vague denials didn’t work, so yesterday the falling Democratic star tried a sort-of apology. Here is the statement:

“Questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office. I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends. At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way. I do it in public and in private. You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business. I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that. To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to. That’s why I have asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations. Separately, my office has heard anecdotally that some people have reached out to Ms. Bennett to express displeasure about her coming forward. My message to anyone doing that is you have misjudged what matters to me and my administration and you should stop now – period.”

Incredible. Incredible! That could have been written in 1986! Like so many egotists and narcissists, Cuomo clearly hasn’t been paying attention, including making even a half-hearted effort to keep up with sexual harassment law. In sexual harassment, the harasser’s intent doesn’t matter, so all the excuses and explanations in the world, reasonable and credible or not, are irrelevant. Yes, individuals in power, especially powerful men, frequently think their “jokes” are appreciated by subordinates who depend on their favor, and that their hugs, kisses, pats, nuzzles and sniffs (See: Biden, Joe) are enjoyed by the victims of them because the alpha male is so darn charming in his own eyes. It has ever been thus, but even before the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck that spawned the “Now you see it, now you don’t” (depending on whether the harasser is a Democrat) #MeToo movement, plenty of high profile jokers and feelers had been laid low despite never “intending to offend” or to “cause any harm.”

How could Cuomo miss that? How could his aides? My sister, a retired lawyer who spent her career in government, made the observation that anyone who has watched Cuomo could guess that he was a sexual harasser. “As a woman,” she said, “you learn to recognize the type.” That doesn’t make him guilty, but his apology is what you would expect from such a classic harasser.

On the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, it’s a #7 (1 is best, 10 is worst)—-

“A forced or compelled version of 1-4, in which the individual (or organization) apologizing may not sincerely believe that an apology is appropriate, but chooses to show the victim or victims of the act inspiring it that the individual responsible is humbling himself and being forced to admit wrongdoing by the society, the culture, legal authority, or an organization or group that the individual’s actions reflect upon or represent.”

…with an unhealthy measure of #9….

“Deceitful apologies, in which the wording of the apology is crafted to appear apologetic when it is not (“if my words offended, I am sorry”). Another variation: apologizing for a tangential matter other than the act or words that warranted an apology.”

Let’s take Cuomo’s statement section by section.

Questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office.”

It’s never a good sign when a statement begins with an equivocation. The issue isn’t “questions.” The issue is accusations. There is no question that Cuomo has been accused by two named staffers of sexual harassment.

“I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends.

In sexual harassment, all that matters is that the conduct involved is perceived as unwelcome by the victim, and that such conduct can be objectively judged to be such that an employee could reasonably be offended to the extent that it creates a hostile work environment.

“At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way. I do it in public and in private. You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business.”

This tactic is what Ethics Alarms has labeled the Joke Excuse, and the conduct of Schrödinger’s Douchbag. Cuomo’s second accuser, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, says that Cuomo asked her if she was romantically involved with someone, if she was monogamous during her relationships, and if she had ever had a “been with an older man.” Taken together, those comments are intrusive and inappropriate in a supervisor-subordinate relationship, per se sexual harassment, and the kind of flirtatious comments that every office in every kind of organization in the U.S. either has formally cautioned employees about, or has been negligent if it hasn’t.

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”

That’s what makes this a pseudo-apology, a #9. It blames the overly sensitive misinterpreters, and states that Cuomo isn’t sorry for the harassment, only sorry that anyone thought it was harassment.

“To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.”

Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment, alleged that the governor kissed her on the lips without consent, touched her legs, joked about playing strip poker, and that the harassment went on for years. So Cuomo is denying that part of the accusations, the part where it becomes “he said/she said.” Did she tell anyone about these incidents? The fact that the harassment went on so long creates a rebuttable presumption that it wasn’t unwelcome: this is where the “Believe all women” argument comes in.

However, the acid test for sexual harassment (and worse) is whether there are additional victims who come forward after the first one breaks the silence. Cuomo is now up to two. It’s a safe bet there are more.

“That’s why I have asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations.”

Cuomo’s first choice for an “independent review” was former U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones, who had been a law partner to one of Cuomo’s closest advisors, Steve Cohen. Nice try, Governor. Cuomo then said that New York State Attorney General Letitia James (D) and the chief judge of the court of appeals, Janet DiFiore, would jointly select an “independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation to conduct a thorough review and issue a public report.”

“Separately, my office has heard anecdotally that some people have reached out to Ms. Bennett to express displeasure about her coming forward. My message to anyone doing that is you have misjudged what matters to me and my administration and you should stop now – period.”

That’s a cute touch: virtue-signaling. He might as well: as I said, he’s trapped. Maybe this will impress someone.

Not me.

15 thoughts on “Regarding Governor Cuomo’s Apology…

  1. Jack wrote:

    That’s what makes this a pseudo-apology, a #9. It blames the overly sensitive misinterpreters, and states that Cuomo isn’t sorry for the harassment, only sorry that anyone thought it was harassment.

    Perhaps they are actually blame-worthy for those reasons. I know, I know, whether or not that’s true, it doesn’t belong in an apology. Still, it strikes me that hypersensitivity or opportunism could be at work.

    Cuomo wrote:

    To be clear…

    Have we ever seen this construction used in a situation where the writer was actually being “clear?” When I see it, I interpret it as, “I’m about to lie, so I’d better tell you to believe me first.” My language interpreter sees “To be clear …” as a warning to prepare for deception.

    Jack wrote:

    However, the acid test for sexual harassment (and worse) is whether there are additional victims who come forward after the first one breaks the silence. Cuomo is now up to two. It’s a safe bet there are more.

    I think this is often right, but then again, didn’t we see more than one “accuser” in the Kavanaugh matter? Speaking for myself, I am convinced that was a deliberate attempt at a political smear, and I’d be guilty of a double-standard if I didn’t view a second accusation in this case as a mere data point and not an “acid test.” I have no doubt Cuomo has a substantial number of enemies, political and otherwise.

    These days, no matter how deserving a person may be of a #metoo problem from a personal perspective and how facially believable the accusation might be early on, I am ever more skeptical of every single such claim regardless of who its directed against. Smearing powerful people with #metoo has become a kind of horrible sport, and I have seen too many cases of dubious accusations to uncritically accept any of them.

    But that is off topic, and I’m sorry for the digression. Your points about Cuomo’s “apology,” in my opinion, are unassailable from an ethics standpoint. I think a seven is actually pretty generous.

    • Kavanaugh’s accusers were all unrelated to the workplace: legal sexual harassment doesn’t apply, and they also involved behavior in high school and college. #2 and #3 were also phonies, while #1 was a “recovered memory’ so vague as to be worthless.

      Cuomo now has actually admitted sexual harassment whether he know it or not. Comments that can be interpreted by female employees as flirting by the boss are harassment if they are unwelcome.

      • Agreed. The Kavanaugh allegations lacked any credibility because of their age (he and Blasey-Ford were 17 when the alleged assault allegedly happened when Blasey-Ford allegedly had her alleged memories allegedly restored) and Avenatti’s piling on allegations were so over the top not even the hard core Kavanaugh haters took him and them seriously.

        jvb

  2. Democratic star harrassers especially get my goat. You’d think the whole ‘me too’ wave would warn them the can’t keep it up the same way you could in the 80s. (or in their 80s) I am totally baffled why progressives have overlooked Mr Biden and were slow for Mr Cuomo, who have far more impact on far more lives than the actors and other entertainers who now seem to be sacrificial scapegoats. I know it’s mostly the ‘orange man bad’ hysteria, but how did it get started? It began before Mr Trump was even elected so you can’t blame it all on him.

    I think its the media corruption, maybe when equal time went bye bye, and became late night humor of Floyd R Turbo, instead of incise commenters being able to poke holes on the current scripting. Using lame or unconvincing strawman ‘opposing view’ made it easier to convince younger people like student teachers, there was no merit to conservative- or even moderate POVs. A decade or two and all those teachers have influenced a generation, despite the concerns of aging boomers who had to learn a few things about tradition and economics since their salad days.

    I am irked that we will have to lose the unifying and convenience of the current social media giants because they just cannot keep their hands out of the cookie jar of censorship. Right now, having a social media presence requires the time and effort to interact with a half dozen sites. But several I respect are adding accounts on free speech alternates. But as new sites, their speech isn’t free like the giants and people like me can’t afford all the subs. I look back on all the free speech and anti-big brother bent of the early internet, and again wonder how and why they lost that?

    • I find it amazing the Sen. Al Franken resigned for something that pales in comparison to what Cuomo and Biden are accused of doing. Franken’s actions were juvenile and stupid at best – there is absolutely no evidence that Franken used his position as a sitting US Senator to engage in inappropriate relations with staffers or anybody, for that matter. Cuomo and Biden are accused, credibly I might add, of taking liberties with subordinates.

      jvb

      • I was glad to be rid of Al, but it was unfair. Gillibrand took him out, and she is despicable. But he was also a weenie. He could have done a lot of good by making some important distinctions, and instead he tried to grovel to the mob.

        • I wonder whether Gillibrand is orchestrating the hit on Cuomo. I think she’s from an older New York state political family that pre-dates Mario Cuomo by decades and generations.

  3. His statement reminds me of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attempts to excuse his behavior toward his accusers as being on “rowdy movie sets” where we all know that anything goes.

  4. Questions have been raised…

    Deploying the passive voice is one of my all-time favorites. “Mistakes have been made…” The passive voice removes the person placing things in motion from the sentence. Presto-change-o! Son of a gun! Look what happened! Well, I’ll be damned. Ain’t that somethin?

  5. There’s also Schrodinger’s rapist, which is basically the idea that any man COULD be a rapist so no man SHOULD be trusted by any women. This is also tied to the m&m excuse, where if there was a hypothetical bowl of 100 m&ms and only one was deadly poison, you wouldn’t take a chance by taking from the bowl at all, so you shouldn’t trust any man because he might be the 1 in 100 who’s going to do something crazy.

    Anyway, Andrew Cuomo is a bastard, no question of it. For a while he was well-liked to the point where the mainstream media described him as “popular and powerful” and things later really took off for him with COVID…until it was recently revealed he was cooking the books. For a while he was considered a near-untouchable rising star in the Democratic Party and a potential presidential candidate for 2024 after Hillary had her 2 terms (didn’t play that way). Many actually LIKED the fact that he said openly and in no uncertain terms that conservative people were NOT welcome in his state, while loosening abortion laws to permit 3rd trimester abortions, pushing gay marriage through, tightening gun control laws and leaning on sheriffs who balked at enforcement, and generally bullying his way around the state like an elected king with no serious opposition. A few even called themselves “Cuomosexuals.” (seriously?)

    The only differences between him and the bigger bastard Eliot Spitzer who preceded him were #1. He didn’t lean QUITE so hard on business, #2. He wasn’t QUITE so blatant of a bully (“I am a fucking steamroller and I’ll roll over you or anybody else,” Fuck you and your family, Spitzer, you bullying asshole has-been), and #3. He was smart enough to stay away from prostitutes, even between the time he separated from his so-far-only wife Kerry Kennedy and he started banging celebrity chef Sandra Lee for 14 years (hey, Andrew, how long you need to test-drive a car before you buy?) and after that relationship ended. His brother is an asshole too, but let’s not get too far afield.

    Eliot Spitzer had no respect for anyone and neither does he. Frankly, why should he? He’s the son of a still-iconic governor of his state, he’s had a distinguished career including being in Bill Clinton’s cabinet, attorney general of his state, and now three terms as governor with no serious opposition, and he’s pretty darn wealthy too, with a net worth of about $5 million. Apart from one failed attempt to dethrone then-governor George Pataki in 2002 (mostly because he openly said Pataki did nothing but hold Rudy Giuliani’s coat after 9/11 and was not a leader, costing him the nomination), and a lousy relationship with NYC mayor Bill DeBlasio, he’s known only great success.

    The answer is that everyone, rich, poor, successful or not, is supposed to basically respect everyone else. This isn’t Europe and he’s not some king with the rights of lese-majeste’ and prima noctes. This isn’t even high school where he’s the big popular jock who tears up the playing field on Saturday and does a different cheerleader every weekend, whether she’s ok with it or not. The workplace is not a singles bar and he knows it. Government at the level he’s at is not the place for joking around and he knows it. Being successful and being the top dog isn’t a license to grab, squeeze or kiss whatever you want, and he knows it. In fact he argued just that when Brett Kavanaugh, equally as successful but far less of a bully and jerk, was up for SCOTUS. In fact he argued that Kavanaugh needed to be voted down in disgrace on a far thinner record than the one marshaled against him here. This isn’t a matter of unsupported accusations of misbehavior waaaaaaay back when he was in college and even high school. This is a matter of a sitting governor grabbing at his staff like so many sides of hanging beef. Now he wants to whitewash it all and hopefully just sweep it aside. Didn’t they know he was just joking? No, you hypocritical pig, you weren’t joking any more than the football player who tried to pull his classmates underwear up over his head was joking. A joke is when you make a pun out of something that just happened, or ask what you get when you cross this with that, or whether someone has heard about something, or give an answer, then tell what the question was in a silly manner. It’s not when you push someone down in a mud puddle, or play keep-away with someone else’s possessions, or cause someone else physical pain. That’s cruelty disguised as humor. It’s definitely not when you make some sexually charged comment that you know damn well will make someone uncomfortable, and it’s absolutely not when you force yourself on someone who wants nothing to do with you.

    My question for the governor, if I was in a position to ask it and compel an answer, would be “Governor, if what is being alleged against you was being alleged against a governor from the other party with the same evidence, what would you think should happen to HIM?” I can’t read minds, but, if I could, I believe that Cuomo’s answer would be that governor should resign and be drummed out of politics in disgrace, to be replaced by a woman, and that party shouldn’t even try to win the next election. I don’t think he’ll resign, he’s just too arrogant to do it, but I think he’s too wounded to run for that fourth term next year, or to get it if he decides to run anyway. It’s up to the powers that be in the New York State Democratic Party to insist on a meeting and tell him “Andrew, you’ve become a distraction. This isn’t going to burn out or blow over, and from here it just gets worse. Your chances of that fourth term or going for higher office have evaporated. They’re gone. Poof! They have vanished like they were never there. What is more, we can’t spend this year and next year watching more accusers come forward, and you know they will, and trying to say they are all either sluts or nuts. We also can’t spend this year and next year trying to defend your actions with the nursing homes and then what can only be called a cover-up. It’s just going to snowball until even MSNBC can’t ignore it. You need to call a press conference TODAY and announce your resignation, effective immediately, saying you can’t continue your work for the people distracted by this issue. Lt. Governor Hochul’s a woman, maybe she can save the statehouse for our party next year, but maybe not, there’s a lot of blood in the water.”

    • I’m still fascinated by the question of why is this happening and why now? I still think Sonny’s being taken out by a new, more vicious wing of the Democratic party. It’s a pre-emptive strike to get him out of the picture so Commala Harris won’t have any competition in 2024. Sonny’s old school Democrats. The Bolshevik Dems want people like him kicked to the curb. If the Dems wanted Sonny going forward, none of this would have come out. Something’s rotten in the Democratic party. But it’s entertaining as hell. And none of this has a thing to do with sexual harassment. It’s a hit.

    • Excellent observations. Two points:

      Number 1: The media went nuts over Billy Bush’s secret tapes revealed that Trump was a cad. They demanded Trump be pilloried for his crude, anti-women language and sentiments. Trump has not had accusers alleged that he harassed them, which is surprising, considering his life style and his sense of star-power entitlement.

      Number 2: Cuomo asserts that his jokes were taken the wrong way. I get that: my long-suffering wife continually tells me that I am not nearly as amusing as I think I am. However, I know enough about life that I never make off-colored jokes of a sexual nature around anyone, especially in an office setting or with colleagues or clients. The risk is way too high.

      jvb

  6. Cuomo’s first choice for an “independent review” was former U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones, who had been a law partner to one of Cuomo’s closest advisors, Steve Cohen. Nice try, Governor.

    Could be worse. He could have tried to get Fredo.

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